On Your Business: AI's Impact in Pro AV

Steve Greenblatt
(Image credit: Future)

Artificial intelligence has become a buzzword within the AV industry as well as the world at large, but its meaning and importance can vary depending on the audience. Whether or not it has already been realized, AI is not just hype or a passing fad. Its influence is significant and will continue to grow and impact all people, businesses, and workflows as either a tool, threat, or opportunity.

For many, ChatGPT is their understanding of AI because of the publicity it has received, accessibility it offers, and value it has demonstrated to just about everyone in recent years. But while it seems like a recent breakthrough to the general population, the truth is that AI has existed for decades.

Learning Lessons

There are many forms and sources of AI, some of which we have been commonly implementing. Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant are examples of AI that have already become mainstream; however, they have been unable to demonstrate the power, flexibility, and value that are readily attainable with current AI-powered chatbots.

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In order to provide clarity, it is important to understand what AI is. According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, "AI is a machine's ability to perform the cognitive functions we associate with human minds, such as perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting with the environment, problem solving, and even exercising creativity."

Underneath the heading of AI is machine learning, which is comprised of algorithms that process large sets of data or inputs to make predictions and recommendations without specific instructions. Examples of these are facial recognition, product recommendations, and predictive text and autocorrection.

Further specializing within machine learning is deep learning and then generative AI. Generative AI is what most people refer to when they speak about AI because of ChatGPT, Microsoft Copilot, DALL-E, Claude, and popular tools. (Note, GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer, a model designed to generate human-like text in response to a prompt and the behind-the-scenes driver for many AI tools.)

Harnessing the Power

With so many products, services, and purpose-built applications boasting their ability to leverage AI for addressing specific needs and solving common problems people face in their work and daily lives, how can AV professionals harness the power of AI within their organizations?

Beyond its impact in advancing product development to include more client-centric capabilities and benefits, AI offers the opportunity to propel businesses by simplifying routine tasks, reducing the effort of creating content or developing coding, and improving efficiency. Each of these improves outcomes by saving time and/or increasing productivity.

The use of AI may not be a requirement, but it can be a distinct competitive advantage or superpower for those who embrace it.

In today's business climate—and especially in small businesses—most teams are lean, with each member wearing multiple hats and working hard to keep up with the demands of their primary focus and secondary responsibilities. Having a way to reduce the time spent on any activity would be a benefit, especially those tasks that are highly time consuming, don't require their expertise, and/or are low payoff.

This is where AI can be a valuable tool. Used effectively, AI can amplify productivity, reduce busy work, and/or streamline processes while being a cost-effective alternative to increasing expenses or billable hours, outsourcing, or allowing tasks to go undone. The challenge is to understand how to implement AI effectively, where it can make the biggest impact, and invest the time and money into determining how to apply it.

Choose Your Task

For a tool like ChatGPT, time must be invested to understand the prompts that will produce the best outcome in the least amount of time. Also, let's remember that AI is good but far from perfect. Therefore, the work it produces, while very impressive, must be checked for accuracy and should be adjusted for personalization and style to avoid being inauthentic.

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When it comes to software applications that leverage AI, it's critical to refine and prioritize a specific list of tasks and search for a tool that satisfies them, rather than being sold a solution that provides a lot of capabilities that don't address critical needs. Using multiple applications that are focused on serving a specific role can be more effective than seeking an all-or-nothing solution.

Where do you start? I suggest you determine the tasks that are tedious or time consuming, not your area of strength, or don't require your involvement. Here are some common answers:

• Meeting notetaking

• Transcription

• Writing code

• Research (alternative to Google)

• Generating content ideas or outlines

• Crafting email messages

• Creating social media posts

• Appointment scheduling

• Sending reminders and follow-up

Prioritizing this list in order of most to least impactful will provide direction on where to apply AI and how it can offer the most value.

Competitive Advantage

AI is not ready to replace a person or eliminate jobs; however, those who do not adopt AI will be replaced by those who do. This holds true for someone in any role. While some may view AI as cutting corners, cheating, or avoiding work, learning to use AI is a skill that will lead to creating leverage and identifying value, followed by developing a mastery that results in increased efficiency and greater results. Following this formula will result in a distinct advantage over those who resist, avoid, or don't invest in the adoption of AI.

At the moment, the use of AI may not be a requirement, but it can be a distinct competitive advantage or superpower for those who embrace it. Just like when computing and the internet first arrived on the business landscape, early adopters struggled and felt the pains of change at first. Then, once they harnessed the power of these tools and realized the competitive advantage that they offered, they reaped the benefits.

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AI presents the same opportunity. Imagine what would happen to your business or career if you didn't embrace the technology that you have grown to rely upon for everyday use like mobile devices, the cloud, or search engines. The power of AI is akin to these tools, which have become non-negotiable.

Learning to use and apply AI to your needs will provide value in both the short and long term, as long as it is thought of properly and used effectively with a hands-on approach. AI is not going to do the work for you. But it is going to help you get more done in less time and with greater efficiency.

Steve Greenblatt

Steve Greenblatt, CTS, is president and founder of Control Concepts, a provider of specialized software and services for the audiovisual industry.